Monday, December 22, 2008


I went to my friend Emily's annual holiday cookie exchange over the weekend. Not an advanced baker, I usually bring something fairly simple: chocolate chip cookies or the like. But I decided to do something special this year. For the first time ever, I made peanut butter balls. This was a bittersweet undertaking for me. My grandmother, my father's mother, made peanut butter balls every year for Christmas. These delicious little orbs came to represent not just the perfect blending of two great flavors but that time of year when many of the people I loved most in the world came together.

My grandmother was an amazing woman. She was smart and tough, with an incredible sense of humor and an enormous capacity for love. She raised four sons to be men who shared her sense of equity and compassion. An artist, she recreated her world in paint, clay and metal. I am honored to have one of her paintings hanging in my daughter's room.

She shared a life with my granddaddy. She was his partner in the truest sense of the word. Theirs was storybook love. A couple who sneaked kisses and held hands, even after 50 years of marriage.

But a beast came to her world. A cruel and unrelenting animal that ravaged her mind. The most heartbreaking of ends for a woman with so much. I can't even express the depths of sorrow I felt as I watched Alzheimer's take away my grandmother one bite at a time over the course of a decade. There is no crueler thing.

She has been gone six years now and although she did not leave us during the holidays, it is at this time of the year that I feel her absence the most. She made Christmas a special time. A time for togetherness. A time for joy. She was never far from my thoughts throughout the time it took me to craft my own version of her beloved holiday treat. Nor will she be throughout the holidays.

Although not her exact recipe, this one comes fairly close. In her honor:

Peanut Butter Balls

1/2 Cup Butter, Softened
2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1/8 Teaspoon Salt
2 Cups Creamy Peanut Butter
3 Cups Confectioners' Sugar
1 1/2 Cups Graham Cracker Crumbs
1 1/2 Cups Rice Crispies
2 Cups Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
2 Tablespoons Shortening

1. Cream together the butter, vanilla, salt and peanut butter. Stir in 2 cups of the confectioners' sugar, rice crispies and the graham cracker crumbs.

2. Form the mixture into 1 inch balls. Roll each ball in the remaining cup of confectioners' sugar. Set the balls in a single layer on a cookie sheet and refrigerate until firm.

3. To Dip the Balls in Chocolate: Microwave one cup of chocolate chips and one tablespoon shortening for 60 seconds. Then stir well. If not completely melted, microwave in additional 10 second increments. Insert a toothpick into the chilled balls and dip into the melted chocolate until coated. Set on waxed paper until hardened. Melt remaining chocolate and shortening as needed.



  1. Sounds alittle like 'Buckeyes'...only I don't think they have rice krispies. But they sound great. Kaylee is highly allergic to nuts so I would have to hide those! lol.

    Loved the story about your grandma. My grandfather passed after a couple years of dymentia (sp?) It was very difficult to watch him go from life loving to withering. The good thing is that when they pass, they are all restored, and good as new.

    Take care! Love your post and your memories. Brought back one of my own in the process.

  2. Alzheimers is... there aren't words to describe the horror of it... watching older loved ones who should be enjoying the dignity afforded them by their years of living, slowly robbed of it, bit by bit... it's ugly and i hate it.

    People always talk how they want to live a long time. i just want to live as long as my brain does.

    Those are beautiful sentiments about your grandmother. I, too, miss my Grandma so much this time of year - the baking, the shopping, the togetherness... I imagine how much she would love my girls and love to watch Christmas through their eyes...

    Your Grandmother sounds like an AMAZING woman... hugs to you as you remember her... the way she was.

  3. Sounds yummy, we have a family favorite recipes similar to this.

  4. no ski trip is complete without peanut butter balls! ;-) (Hint Hint)


  5. Isn't it a good day when you can honor a loved one AND eat sweets???

  6. I'm missing my grandma so much this year as well. Lucky for me, she's still with us, but lives six hours away and has been in and out of the hospital all month. I'm so wishing I lived close enough to take my kids to visit her every day. The cookies sound delicious.

  7. Great Post. Great Story of your Grandma.

    They sound delicous!! I have never had them, but I LOVE peanut butter, so I think I am going to have to try this recipe:)

  8. The peanut butter balls sound wonderful, but your grandmother sounds even more wonderful.

  9. So sorry about your grandmother. Alzheimer's is one of the most horrific diseases. No words can describe how unfair, rude, and invasive it is to lose the ONE thing you are supposed to always possess...

  10. Your peanut butter balls turned out great! I didn't eat two a few minutes ago, I swear! Your grandmother would be proud!

  11. Awwww...that's awful. I'm so sorry. I had a special bond w/my grandmother too and although she's still with us, she had a stroke several years ago and has not been the same since. I feel for you & I understand the holidays being the time you miss her the most.

    I'm happy for you though that you have such wonderful memories--and what a terrific example she was as a woman and a mother!

  12. That was a great post about your grandma! I'm sorry about the Alzheimer's--I hate that disease. I have witnessed its cruel ravages in my immediate family.

    Those cookies sound amazing! I definitely want to make them!!

  13. Beautiful tribute to your grandmother, Cara...just lovely.

    And those peanut butter balls? Oh my...I need 'em. Now. At 8:30 am.

  14. will definately have to try your recipe will write it down right now!! happy holidays!!love koren

  15. LOL just thought of the skit from SNL and the Schwettie balls(LOL) excuse the spelling if not correct.... heeehee

  16. I'm sorry for the loss of your Grandmother. Alzheimers is such a horrible disease. I used to work with people who had it. And I have hope that one day we will find a cure for it.

    Those peanut butter balls sound amazing! I will have to try them.


Give me some sugar, baby!